What if my partner tries to hide money in our divorce proceedings?
It is not uncommon for spouses to be worried that their ex will try to hide assets, or lie about the true extent of their income or investments, when it comes to a financial settlement alongside divorce proceedings. This can particularly be a worry for, typically, a wife who has been a stay-at home mum or part-time worker who has left the management of the family finances to her husband. She feels in the dark and vulnerable as she does not know, or not the full extent of, what they have got as a family and/or whether there are any liabilities.
There is an obligation in family law cases dealing with resolving divorcing couples’ financial claims of full and frank financial disclosure. This is an on-going duty so if you, for example, receive a pay rise or an inheritance etc. as the proceedings go along this must be made known to your spouse and his/her legal advisers.
A recent case called Moher v Moher  EWCA Civ 1482 emphasises that the court does not tolerate a failure to disclose fully and frankly your financial circumstances upon divorce. In this case the husband failed to provide full and frank financial disclosure and was penalised by having to pay just over £52,000 towards the wife’s costs. The court found that when it cannot know with certainty what all of the assets are due to non-disclosure it can, if it deems it appropriate, infer that there are sufficient resources to make an award anyway. In this case the wife was awarded £1.4 million. The husband had suggested that the wife should receive £960,000 whilst the wife sought a lump sum of £1.5 million. The wife’s case was that “what the husband disclosed and the values disclosed are likely to represent a significant undervalue of the true extent of the assets”.
The case is a reminder that failure to be honest and open about your financial resources when getting divorced has serious consequences. Honesty is definitely the best policy.
Where there is a mutual trust between the couple it also means it is much more likely that they will be able to resolve things in a much more amicable and dignified fashion, as opposed to expensive, stressful and risky court proceedings. More constructive and amicable options for resolving matters are mediation or the collaborative process which I always encourage my clients to consider. I am a trained family mediator and collaborative lawyer so these outside of court options are always something I discuss with my clients at the outset. They provide a forum for frank discussions in a supported environment and hopefully ensure that future relationships can be preserved, which is especially important if there are children.
For more information please contact Sarah French.
Family holiday plans gone to Ashes
What you need to know about taking children abroad after separation
The Ashes test series has begun, the sun is shining; summer is here. Attentions naturally turn to holiday. But there’s a word of warning if you are divorced or separated – you must have written permission from your former partner before you take the children abroad. And this requirement extends to everyone who has parental responsibility for a child.
Both our UK and foreign border controls have a duty to make reasonable checks. As a result if permission is not sought, it could cause lot of problems at the UK or foreign border if you are asked for proof of permission and don’t have it. It could cause you to have your holiday cut short or in the worst case scenario it could be a criminal matter of Child Abduction.
Don’t let rain stop play…
Thankfully, demonstrating permission is not complicated in most cases – a letter or email from your former partner with his or her contact details on it may suffice. Ask them to confirm their agreement in writing, giving some basic details about the holiday such as the child’s name, your destination, flight numbers and timings. If you are going further afield then the embassies usually list the type of information their boarder controls may seek and it may always be worthwhile researching at the embassy websites in any event.
Other practical considerations before you go on holiday include making sure you have a copy of the permission letter, the children’s birth certificates and your marriage certificate or decree absolute of divorce (if you have one) with you, particularly if your surname is now different to your child’s.
The sticky wicket…
But, what if your former partner will not give permission? As a lawyer who manages this problem, my advice is try to avoid it in the first place. The best advice is always to try and agree holidays where possible well in advance and, importantly, before anything is booked. Keeping your partner fully informed as to your plans can go a long way to prevent issues. Provide them with key information ideally writing such as flight details, hotel details and a number you can be contacted on in case of emergency.
If this doesn’t work and they refuse then the only way to travel without permission is to apply to the court. But a word of warning, these proceedings can take some time and you may need legal support, so if you think there may be an issue it’s worth allowing two to three months for it to be resolved. The good news is that provided there are no serious welfare concerns or risks of abduction, the court usually grants permission.
For further advice and information please contact Family Solicitor, Katy Barber on 023 8071 8056 or email: email@example.com
No10’s first cohabiting couple
As Boris Johnson settles in to his new residence at No 10 Downing Street with girlfriend Carrie Symonds it seems that they may just be the first ever cohabiting couple to move in. Is this just another subtle sign that society is starting to accept and recognise cohabiting couples as equals to our married counterparts?
Generally it seems that cohabitation law is really starting to see a distinct but subtle shift in recent months with landmark decisions over pension rights and cases such as Horn –v- Chipperfield and Springall –V – Paice receiving national press coverage. The former case being one where Katy Barber of Moore Blatch acted for Ms Chipperfield.
Why is the difference between married and unmarried so important?
If a relationship breaks down, the law tends to be much harsher on the financially weaker party. The courts tend to view the relationship similar to business or other commercial type arrangements where by documentation is key and without it (as is often the case) a long evidence gathering exercise begins to show ‘intention’.
If a relationship has broken down where the parties were never married, it can never be assumed however that no financial claims can be made. Not only can claims be made on behalf of a former partner but also on behalf of any children of the family that require assistance. It is always preferable to obtain specialist legal advice in these situations so that assets are never at risk from unanticipated financial claim form a former spouse. Maybe Boris should consider a Cohabitation Agreement.
For further advice and information please contact Family Solicitor, Katy Barber on 023 8071 8056 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pride and Prejudice – Marriage in Modern Times
Marriage has become a more inclusive term over the past decade with the introduction of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which made gay and lesbian marriage possible. This has been praised by many as a victory for equality, something many will think about as London Pride Parade approaches on 6th July. At first glance it could be seen as a step towards equality, but the truth is that same sex marriage simply isn’t the same especially in the legal world. For example:
Married fathers: an exceptional parental responsibility status?
Recent case law and statutes have reiterated time and again the importance of the child’s welfare. How does this link with parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility is defined as the ‘rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property’. Here, there is a causal link between the parents’ responsibilities and duties towards the child and the child’s welfare. All gestational/birth mothers automatically have parental responsibility for their children. Fathers, on the other hand, obtain this status in different ways- by either being married to the mother of the child, by being registered on the birth certificate (since 1.12.2003) or via a parental responsibility agreement/order.
Why is parental responsibility so important and can it ever be revoked?
Parental responsibility enables parents to understand what they can/cannot unilaterally do in relation to their child. The law, however, seems slightly unclear in explaining what happens to the status should parents fall below the expected standard. In the case of C v D (Parental Responsibility)  the father lost his parental responsibility as the court found that if he continued to have parental responsibility this would have a detrimental impact on his child’s welfare. Here, the father had parental responsibility by way of being registered on the birth certificate. The father’s controlling behaviour was unacceptable and he was even banned from the school for his behaviour towards staff and in front of other pupils. The courts in this case have set a high threshold – a father’s parental responsibility can only be revoked if there are an exceptional set of circumstances.
The question is, though, does this also apply to fathers married to the mother who automatically acquire parental responsibility? Parental responsibility for gestational/birth mothers and fathers married to the mother is usually not removed other than in adoption cases. But what if the case of C v D had involved a father who was or had been married to the mother? Would the courts have decided to revoke his parental responsibility? Or is the married father’s parental responsibility an exceptional status which means that a married father cannot ever lose parental responsibility?
The law on this point leaves these questions unanswered for now.What is clear is that the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration.
For further information or advice about legal matters relating to your children or any other family law issue please contact Sarah French or another member of the Moore Blatch family team.
Identifying Parental Alienation
Recently, lawyers, judges and social workers have become increasingly aware of parental alienation. It is however just as crucial for parents to also recognise when this is happening and why this might happen.
Parental alienation can manifest itself in many different ways but ultimately it is where a parent has been pushed out of their children’s lives for no justifiable reason. This can occur where a child considers one of their parents to be a stranger or even worse, an enemy. It can occur where a child suddenly no longer wants to see one parent or goes so far as to say they loathe the idea of seeing one of their parents. It’s a painful situation that can not only cause a rift between the parents but also between siblings who may feel an allegiance to different parents. This can potentially tear a family apart.
Sadly, parental alienation is often the result of one parent’s want for this to happen and willingness to let it happen. It can come about as a result of false accusations against one parent which warp the children’s views of the accused parent. This is made further worse when the accuser relentlessly pursues these allegations. The false accusations can cause the attention of the social workers and police involved to inadvertently shift towards these allegations and away from maintaining or at least re-establishing a relationship between the accused parent and their estranged child. A parent might also be excluded from their children’s lives as a result of the other parent’s derogatory and negative comments about them in front of the children. These kinds of comments and behaviour can influence a child’s feelings and lead to the child’s confusion at one parent’s expense.
The ways in which parental alienation can come about are endless but it is clear this problem is harmful to any child unless dealt with as promptly as possible. It is important cases of parental alienation are therefore identified quickly so that damage to the relationship between a child and their parent can be limited before it becomes irreparable. Once the issue has been properly identified steps can also be taken to piece the family back together with the aid of family therapy and court orders. The main point parents and lawyers alike should therefore bear in mind is to stay alert to this issue so it can be addressed head on.
Please contact Sahil Aggarwal or another member of the Moore Blatch family team for further information.
Who gets the dog in the divorce: a tall tail
I have dealt with several cases where the biggest bone of contention (excuse the pun) was the family pet. In a particularly acrimonious matter I had suggested to my client that it would be cheaper to buy a new cat than instruct me to keep fighting for it. My suggestion did not go down well and I swiftly learnt that people consider pets to be a part of the family.
The court treats a pet the same way it would a sofa or painting; it’s simply property or a chattel as far as the court is concerned.
If the parties are not married it may well look to who bought the pet and who pays for its upkeep, and costs such as vet’s bills and food may be taken in to consideration. If the pet was gifted then it generally belongs to the recipient.
If parties are married and can’t agree on how to share chattels then the court will get involved, and will often direct a list of items in dispute to be drawn up, with parties taking turns to pick an item they want. The courts really do not like these types of disputes and the cost and stress of litigation can be vast, so you would be wise to avoid it if possible.
Ant McPartlin and his ex-wife share their dog and I’ve come across people who do this, two weeks each alternating. If you can cope with contact with your former partner, then that is a good way to do it (it doesn’t work so well for cats though!).
You cannot make an application to court for ‘custody’ of a pet and a judge won’t decide how to share the pet’s time between you. You can’t apply for ‘access’ to a pet.
There has been much in the press recently about ‘pet-nups’. I have never done or seen one but I have recently prepared a Cohabitation Agreement that specifically set out who owned the dog. It is worth thinking about what would happen upon a relationship breakdown, to avoid arguments and heartbreak at that time.
If you and your partner can’t agree on who should get the pet, you might want to try mediation to see if a mediator can help you reach an agreement.
Sarah French in our Southampton office is a qualified and very experienced mediator.
To return to my ‘tail’ at the top, I ‘won’ the cats for my client, but she never collected them. In that case I don’t think it was ever about the cats, but the principle. Principles are fine but they can be expensive!
If you’re getting divorced and you need some advice, contact Victoria in our Richmond office. T: 0208 334 0315,
Can I change my child’s name?
Parents might want to change their child’s name for a variety of reasons. Perhaps there is an absent parent or the child is being bullied, or perhaps the child wants to change his or her name.
It’s time to knockout those separating myths…Ding Ding
With heavy weight boxer Anthony Joshua looking for a knock out against his opponent this weekend, we look at 5 common myths around separating and divorcing that also need to be knocked out of circulation for good!